After years of planning and lining up funds, the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project has hit the streets. A ceremony to mark the start of construction was held on Nov. 5 at Fireman’s Park. The project includes beautification and stormwater improvements along downtown’s core street. It will add new streetlights, paving, roadway bicycle markings, rain gardens and landscaping between South 7th and 17th streets. The project will cost $10.2 million and has been funded primarily by state and federal grants totaling $7.1 million. Dick McKinley, the city’s public works director, said a key feature will be a new way to treat stormwater prior to it flowing into nearby Thea Foss Waterway.
U.S. Representative Norm Dicks, who is finishing up a long career in Congress, discussed federal involvement in efforts to improve downtown. “It is a never ending process.” He noted the U.S. Department of Transportation provided $978,000 for this project. State Senator Derek Kilmer noted the state provided $3 million. A brighter, more appealing downtown will encourage more businesses to locate here. “We know our communities are better when they have a vibrant downtown,” Kilmer said. “This will be a new welcome mat on our front porch.” Mayor Marilyn Strickland praised the collaboration of the city, state and federal governments. She noted the project will create much-needed construction jobs. It sends a message that “we are in fact open for business in Tacoma, Washington.” Tom Pierson, president and CEO of Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, said at least one lane of Pacific will be open to traffic during construction. He said he looks forward to the new streetlights and an art component based on the green flash, a natural phenomenon that occurs over the Pacific Ocean. The event continued with a reception at Tacoma Art Museum. Elizabeth Conner, the design team artist who is serving as a consultant to the city on the project, said small green tiles along the street will represent the green flash. She described the project as “a lively and creative adventure along Pacific Avenue.”